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June 28, 2015

China-Africa News: South Africa joins AIIB, Chinese traders in Uganda, the startup that makes ‘real’ rhino horn

South Africa's Cabinet approved the country's joining of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), making it only the second African country – Egypt is the other - among the bank's 57 founding member states. The AIIB's constitution will be signed on 29 June in Beijing by representatives of the 57 founding members. It will then have to be ratified by the member countries.

Meanwhile, the outgoing president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Donald Kaberuka is set to visit China to discuss how the AIIB's "future investments" can benefit African countries. The bank will start operations with an investment purse of $50 billion, although its authorised amount is $100 billion; the money is supposed to finance infrastructure in countries that do not have the ability to do so themselves. Mr Kaberuka told Xinhua that the AfDB spent $28 billion on infrastructure investments in his ten-year tenure; however, Africa needs $95 billion a year for infrastructure development but does not have local funding to that scale. Hence his visit to China, to see how the AIIB can help fill that gap.

New direct flight between Guangzhou and Nairobi. China Southern Airlines will make its first nonstop flight between Guangzhou and Nairobi on 5 August. The airline will operate three flights per week on the route. Guangzhou is a popular destination for African traders (and migrants).

Conservationists optimistic about China's new ivory pledge. A Chinese official announced recently that China “will strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.” No one is sure when the trade will eventually be halted, but some conservationists are encouraged by what they say is the political will behind the announcement.  Zhou Fei, head of the China office of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organization, told the New York Times that the ban could happen as early as 2017.

Although some are not waiting for the state to act. A San Francisco biotech startup is 3D printing fake [and cheap] rhino horns with the same genetic fingerprints as the real horn with the aim of flooding China with the fakes. It hopes this will help fight rhino poaching in Africa. However, the plan has been criticised by conservation activists who say it does nothing to dispel the medicinal fictions behind the demand for rhino horn, and might even lead to more demand.

The largest investor in Africa in 2014 was not China. It was the United States of America, which overtook the United Kingdom. China was in 7th place, with 32 new investment projects worth $6.1 billion announced in 2014. The rankings are contained in the 2015 Africa Attractiveness Survey by Ernst & Young.

China hosts African lawyers in month-long exchange program. Twenty three African legal professionals were in China for a month to attend a legal exchange program overseen by the China Law Society. The aim of the program is to: "establish partnerships with African legal workers and provide help to overseas Chinese companies, and also to promote China's image and promote cooperation in the long run."

Associated Press profiles Chinese traders in Uganda. They complained of having to pay bribes to policemen, while local traders say the low prices they offer will chase them out of the market. It is a tale of the usual complaints from both sides (local and Chinese traders).

Zimbabwe exports elephant calves to China. Twenty seven elephant calves left Zimbabwe this week for a "safari park" in China. The Zimbabwe government's decision to export the calves was criticised by conservation groups, who faulted the manner in which they were captured and the living conditions at the Chinese park.

Two hundred of the 1000 companies at the just concluded Southern African International Trade Exhibition (SAITEX) were from China.

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